Checking In On The Next Wave of Top Prospects: American League Edition

 

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In January, I selected and profiled one player from each American League team to be the next breakout prospect for their respective organizations (view article here). Six months later, I wanted to take the opportunity to check in on the status of each of these prospects and in certain cases, offer an alternate prospect or two in the organization who is grabbing headlines with their noteworthy performance this season.

Jhon Peluffo, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Peluffo has pitched across two levels to begin 2018, yielding lots of contact (51 H in 36.2 IP), while the 21 year old Colombian hurler has struggled with a 26 K to 23 BB ratio.

The Oriole prospect taking the scene by storm is OF Ryan McKenna, Peluffo’s teammate for the Frederick Keys (Carolina League, A+). McKenna is second in the league in hitting with a .375 BA to go along with a .466 OBP and .557 SLG. Of McKenna’s outstanding 95 hits in 66 games, he has 18 doubles, 2 triples, and 8 HR, while adding 5 SB. McKenna is quickly proving to be one of Baltimore’s top prospects. 

Lorenzo Cedrola, OF, Boston Red Sox

Currently playing for the Greenville Drive of the Sally League (A), Cedrola is making a push for a promotion to High A with his impressive play thus far in 2018. While only 7/14 in SB attempts, Cedrola’s .315 AVG is good for 11th overall in the league. Other Sally Leaguers Seuly Matias (KC), Chad Spanberger (COL), Drew Waters (ATL) Oneil Cruz and Cal Mitchell (PIT) are grabbing most of the attention, but Cedrola is still putting together a solid season atop the Drive lineup. Gifted with an overall athletic profile, Cedrola should have no problem ascending through the Red Sox minor league system. While Cedrola might not have the name recognition across the game just yet, he has all of the tools to become the next gem in the Red Sox organization.

Aaron Bummer, LHP, Chicago White Sox

Bummer has pitched in 26 big league games for the South Siders, putting together a solid ERA of 3.26. The WHIP of 1.71 tells a different story, as he has surrendered 27 hits in 19.1 IP. While the 6 BB haven’t proven to be problematic, and the 21 K during those innings has been positive, Bummer finds himself behind fellow lefty Jace Fry in the White Sox bullpen picture. 

Of the two lefties, the 24 year old Fry is emerging as the more reliable choice thus far, where his 0.7 WAR so far in 2018 ranks him above other quality RP’s such as Brad Peacock (HOU) and Kenley Jansen (LAD). 

Luke Wakamatsu, SS, Cleveland Indians

Wakamatsu hasn’t quite put it together with the bat this season for High A Lynchburg, but a tough April has skewed his otherwise productive May, which he hit .258 AVG to go along with a .356 OBP last month. The switch hitter remains a promising talent in the stacked Indians prospect pool. 

Outfielder Will Benson has grabbed more headlines this season so far in the Indians organization, swatting 11 HR. The 14th overall pick back in 2016, Benson has an intriguing blend of power and speed, with contact questions still to be answered (31% K rate in 2018 is a slight improvement on last year’s 34% K rate). Another outfield prospect, George Valera, is on the brink of being the next big thing, and has impressed everyone in Extended Spring Training.

Gregory Soto, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Pitching out of the rotation for Lakeland (High A), Soto’s 12 starts have not seen the progress of his secondary offerings (curveball and changeup) with as much consistency as to silence the future bullpen labels that have been attached to him to this point. While Soto can flat-out bring it with the fastball and he has given up less hits than innings pitched, the Tigers would like to see progress on his 44 BB in 51.1 IP. 

For the Tigers, outfielder Christin Stewart has demonstrated he is knocking on the door of a big league job with 13 HR and a .349 OBP for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. The Tigers are hoping that Stewart will develop into a middle of the order bat, where he will carry an offense-first profile wherever he ultimately lands defensively.

Jorge Alcala, RHP, Houston Astros

Alcala began the year at High A, and his sterling performance there earned him a promotion to AA. Alcala put together dominant outings as a starter and during bullpen days, netting more K’s per inning in 70% of his appearances. He limited contact and demonstrated excellent control, allowing more than two walks only twice. His latest outing at AA: 5IP, 1H, 1BB, 5K showed the kind of impact starter Alcala can be for the Astros. As the Astros make a run at a repeat championship, Alcala will surely be a name that rival organizations inquire about as they look to put the finishing touches on a roster poised for a deep October run.

Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals

Lopez opened eyes during the Arizona Fall League by putting up a .383 AVG, and he picked up right where he left off this season. In 66 games at AA Northwest Arkansas (Texas League), Lopez has compiled a .327 AVG, good for 9th overall in the league, to go along with a .399 OBP. His 83 hits are good for tops among qualifiers. Lopez has knocked 7 doubles and 4 triples for extra base hits and is successful on 9/13 SB attempts. Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi look to be the future infielders up the middle for Kansas City as they rebuild their organization from within in the same mold as their 2014 AL Pennant run.

Trent Deveaux, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Deveaux has yet to log official professional games outside of Extended Spring Training, yet all reports this season are that Deveaux excites scouts with his advanced approach at the plate, top notch speed, and defense in centerfield. Deveaux should quickly take to the field and explode with popularity once he gains a wider level of exposure.

The Angels, for the first time in a little while, have a solid crop of prospects at the top of their rankings. Jo Adell, hardly a secret in the prospect world, is looking every bit as talented as when the Angels invested the 10th overall pick on him in 2017. Jahmai Jones is handling a move back to 2B, the position where he was originally drafted, very well. But the big breakout in the organization has been from LHP Jose Suarez. Suarez created quite a scuttle as he put up a 51K:8BB ratio in 29.2 IP at AA this year. Now at AAA, Suarez is knocking on the door of making an impact for the Angels at just 20 years old. 

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Graterol has quickly become more of a known commodity in 2018 due to a brilliant start for Cedar Rapids, sharing the field with high profile teammates Royce Lewis, Akil Baddoo, and Alex Kiriloff. Across 7 starts, Graterol has put together a 2.48 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, where he has limited walks (6) in 36.1 IP. Graterol has two starts with 9+ strikeouts so far this year, and looks destined for a consensus top 100 prospect billing by season’s end. 

Luis Medina, RHP, New York Yankees

The Yankees sit atop the AL East standings due in large part to the production they have received from the products of their farm system: Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Domingo German, and Jonathan Holder. Medina is on the brink of a 2018 debut for the Pulaski Yankees (Appalachian League, Rookie), after being limited to simulated game action so far. Scouts rave about his offerings and ability to miss bats, but command has been inconsistent to date. Medina has a ways to go, but a fast start to this season will surely vault him into the conversation along with other top Yankee prospect arms such as Albert Abreu and Chance Adams.

Will Toffey, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Toffey leads all qualifiers in the California League (High A) with a .455 OBP, where he has more BB’s (23) than K’s (22). Indeed, Toffey has lived up to the bill of an on-base machine so far in 2018 in a league scattered with bigger prospect names (Colton Welker, Connor Wong, Daulton Varsho, Gavin Lux, Evan White, Hudson Potts, and Heath Quinn among others). Toffey is one to continue to watch fly under the radar, while the A’s will be tremendously pleased that they have him as a productive bat to build towards a future big league spot. 

Mike Ford, 1B, New York Yankees (formerly Seattle Mariners at the time of the original article release)

Fresh off of a Rule 5 selection by the Mariners, Mike Ford was returned to the Yankees with the positional log jam at 1B in Seattle. Ford remains an intriguing on-base hitter but has struggled at the outset of 2018, where he has seen his K rate (20%) increase well above his MiLB career average of 14%, while simultaneously walking less (10.5% BB in 2018 versus a career average of 14.1%). Currently on the disabled list, Ford will need to see an uptick in productivity to be called up should Greg Bird continue to struggle or face injury. 

For Seattle, Seth Elledge has without doubt been a bright spot for the Mariners farm system, earning a Cal League All-Star nod by putting together a down right dominant campaign. In 27 IP, the reliever has allowed only 10 hits and 3 earned runs while amassing 39 K. 

Joe McCarthy, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

McCarthy’s brother, Jake, was the 39th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, Joe has held his own this season at AAA Durham, putting up the highest OPS of his career (.863). McCarthy has seen time at 1B, LF, and CF this season for the Bulls, and should get a call up to Tampa Bay sometime in 2018. 

Kyle Cody, RHP, Texas Rangers

Cody has yet to pitch this season due to injury, and the Rangers are rightly being cautious as they have seen fellow top pitching prospect Cole Ragans fall victim to Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Cody still has the makings of a mid rotation workhorse, and may begin the year in High A Down East (Carolina League), where he left off last season, before advancing to a bigger developmental test in AA. 

Edward Olivares, OF,  San Diego Padres (formerly Toronto Blue Jays at the time of the original article release)

Olivares was traded to San Diego in Toronto’s acquisition of Yangervis Solarte shortly after New Years. Olivares is off to a good start in High A, albeit overshadowed by louder performances from teammates Hudson Potts, Buddy Reed, and pitchers Chris Paddack and Adrian Morejon. Olivares’ 73 hits are good for 5th in the league, to go along with 16 doubles, 5 triples, and 5 HR. His 9 SB in 12 attempts has been a positive improvement as well this year. Difficult to stand out in the Padres’ loaded system, Olivares has nonetheless had a solid start in his new organization. 

In Toronto, the Blue Jays have seen breakout performances from two middle infield prospects: Cavan Biggio and Kevin Smith. Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig, has broken out on one of the most viewed minor league teams this year in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA), who feature Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Biggio in the middle of the lineup. In Smith, the Blue Jays had a hitter who produced a monstrous .355 AVG in Lansing (A) before being promoted to Dunedin (A+), where he has continued to hit everything thrown his way. The Blue Jays are boasting stud middle infielders at seemingly every level of their organization, and fill the fan base with optimism for perhaps a post-Josh Donadson era rebuild.

Early Spring Training Roundup

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Written by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Baseball is back! The first week of Spring Training games is in the books, and already there are plenty of 2017 minor leaguers who are putting up impressive performances out of the gates here in 2018. I will highlight some of the top performers across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, Houston Astros (Spring Training: West Palm Beach, FL)
Rogelio ArmenterosFor a team that goes seven solid starters deep at the major league level, Houston’s AAA rotation should feature the strong arm of Armenteros in 2018. Along with other highly talented young arms Francis Martes and David Paulino, Armenteros should not be overlooked as a premium young talent in his own right in the minor leagues. Through two spring outings and one start, Armenteros has 5 IP, allowing 1 R, 3 H, and putting up 9 K and only 1 BB. Armenteros features a low 90’s fastball, two breaking balls, and an excellent changeup. His good control and durable build signal a rotation future for the 23 year old Cuban, and a call up to help defend the World Series title in Houston at some point this season.
 
Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees (Spring Training: Tampa, FL)
Miguel AndujarIn December, I wrote about Andujar’s struggles in the Dominican Winter League. That seems like a long time ago now. Since the calendar has turned to March, Andujar is sizzling at the plate this Spring: 6 hits in 14 at bats, including 4 home runs and a double. With Gleyber Torres looking more like the everyday 2B for the Yankees, Andujar is playing for a shot to start at the hot corner in the Bronx. Newcomer Brandon Drury provides insurance for both top prospects, but Andujar is as hot as they come in the batters box right now. The energy in his swing is exciting here in the early going for the Yankees! If you don’t believe me just ask @PeoplezPen.
 
Franchy Cordero, OF, San Diego Padres (Spring Training: Peoria, AZ)
FranchyCordero is coming off of a stellar 2017 season at AAA, capping it off with an MVP award playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Cordero is picking up right where he left off so far in the Cactus League, swatting 2 HR and 2 doubles in 13 at bats. Though he has 5 strikeouts, the Padres have an intriguing power-speed bat in Cordero that looks ready to contribute at the major league level. With the team’s signing of Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers will slide to LF, further complicating the already crowded OF picture for Cordero to emerge as an everyday option this season. The Padres may need to make some trades to clear space for Cordero, but his loud play for the better part of the last calendar year makes it hard to ignore his potentially bright future playing in San Diego in short order.
 
Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland Indians (Spring Training: Goodyear, AZ)

Greg AllenSpeedster Greg Allen profiles as a top of the order hitter and an excellent outfield defender. Similar to both Armenteros and Cordero, Allen is also blocked positionally in the big leagues. Nearly 25 years old, Allen played primarily for the Akron Rubberducks (AA) in 2017, swiping 24/26 bases (92%) in 76 total games. In 388 career minor league games, Allen has gotten on base at a stellar .379 clip. In 7 Cactus League games so far, Allen has 8 hits in 15 at bats, including 2 doubles and 1 triple. He also has 5 runs and 5 RBI. With incumbent LF Michael Brantley questionable for opening day, Allen could have an opportunity to begin the season in Cleveland. Regardless of where he starts the season, Allen should be among the first OF considered to be called up from the minor leagues, especially with his switch-hitting ability and all-around exciting skill set.

Follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos! Thanks!

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The Next Wave of Top Prospects: National League

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Written by Ben Wilson

I have highlighted one sleeper prospect from each NL team for deeper dynasty leagues that are on the verge of garnering more attention. This list looks at minor leaguers who were taken before the 2017 draft, but are still eligible for this season’s minor league dynasty drafts. The accompanying AL edition was published previously on this site.

Jhoan Duran, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

The 6’5” right-hander out of the Dominican Republic just turned 20 years old, and has been in the Diamondbacks system since 2015. Duran has a lively mid 90’s fastball, with the heavy sink and late movement that makes the offering play up even more. While his curveball and changeup are still works in progress, Duran has been able to limit walks by showing decent control: in his first taste of Low A, he was able to maintain a 1.19 WHIP in 51.1 IP. If Duran can develop more consistency with his changeup, he will see his K numbers rise significantly to play off his excellent fastball.

Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Atlanta Braves

An exciting 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion is generating some buzz in early 2018 in deep dynasty leagues. By being attached to one of baseball’s most prominent farm systems, Encarnacion is in a great environment for his tools to develop. Encarnacion has shown signs of hitting for average as well as power, while flashing some useable, situational speed on the bases. Encarnacion has the arm and athleticism to stick at 3B. Encarnacion has some wrap to his swing and a very low walk rate; but after smoothing it out with continued development and refining his approach, he has all the makings of a very solid MLB player for the Braves.

Charcer Burks, OF, Chicago Cubs

Taken in the 9th round of the 2013 Draft out of Richmond, Texas, Burks has climbed steadily through the Cubs system and reached both AA and the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Burks has been praised for his on base approach and high character, and he found some over the fence power this season. While Burks will not become a prolific HR hitter, he does possess good strength, and a small leg kick in his right handed swing which helps generate extra base hit power. Burks may have the speed to steal 20 bases as a regular at the highest level, but needs to refine his technique since he was successful at a 57% clip at AA (16SB, 12CS).

Michael Beltre, OF, Cincinnati Reds

With Taylor Trammell (LF), Jose Siri (CF), and Michael Beltre (RF), the Dayton Dragons had one of the most toolsy outfields in the minors in 2017. A switch hitter, Beltre can both cut down his swing and slap the ball the other way, or sell out for pull side power. Watching tape of Beltre, I am reminded of Jose Reyes and Corey Patterson respectively in those situations. Beltre has the ability to take a walk, but can sometimes be overly patient, hence his higher K numbers. He has an impressive foundation of tools and is a name to watch among a bright crop of prospects in Cincinnati.

Breiling Eusebio, LHP, Colorado Rockies

If you look past the “Colorado pitcher thing,” Eusebio is a compelling pitching prospect that I am really excited about. Eusebio primarily boasts a dynamic fastball and curveball (11-7) combination, with both offerings currently above average at present. Eusebio has an athletic presence on the mound, and looks the part operating from a high-handed set position. With a groundball generating arsenal, Eusebio should not be an overlooked name in Colorado.

Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Speaking of compelling left-handed pitching prospects, Ferguson really came on this year in the Dodger system pitching at A+ Rancho Cucamonga. In 24 starts and 122.1 IP, Ferguson compiled a 2.87 ERA, with 140K/55BB. Still just 21 years old, Ferguson fell in the draft in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, but has been steadily developing since. Ferguson has a simple delivery and a sturdy build in his 6’3” frame. If he takes a comparable step forward this year, Ferguson will not be available for very long in most dynasty formats.

James Nelson, 3B, Miami Marlins

Nelson is a talented all-around player in the Marlins system. Initially drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round, Nelson passed on signing and was taken instead by the Marlins just a year later and three rounds earlier. Nelson’s play on the field this past season was undeniably impressive, as he was selected to the All Star team in A ball. Nelson sets up at the plate from the right side with a slightly open stance and low hand position with a medium right elbow lift. While he put up 106K/26BB in 102 games in 2017, Nelson has been an excellent contributor and has the ability to develop into an exciting 3B regular in the big leagues.

Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft from Hawaii has had some struggles in his early years, but really figured some things out this past season at High A Carolina. Consistently putting up good K numbers in the minors due to a wicked fastball-slider combination, Medeiros has been working on mechanical adjustments to his arm slot, which has contributed to his mixed results. He has a bit of a “Bumgarner sling” to his delivery, but Medeiros has the pure stuff to be a starter with a high leverage relief fallback from the left side. He certainly has the draft pedigree to take the next step in his development, and hope that the Hawaiian lefty can continue to build on his growth from his strong showing this year.

Corey Oswalt, RHP, New York Mets

Oswalt has been around for a few years in the Mets system, as he was a 7th round draft pick in 2012. Spending 2017 at AA Binghamton, Oswalt compiled a 12-5 record, with a 2.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 119K/40BB in 134.1 IP. Oswalt has the makings of an innings eater at the back of the rotation, as 17 of his 24 starts in 2017 were 6+ IP. Oswalt uses his 6’5” frame and strong lower half in his delivery of his four-pitch mix. Given the Mets proclivity for pitching injuries at the big league level, Oswalt should have a bag packed ready to get the call in Queens as soon as mid 2018.

Victor Arano, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Arano was acquired from the Dodgers back in 2014, and has seen time in both the rotation and bullpen. Converted to a full time reliever in 2016, Arano’s already solid stuff played up as electric out of the pen. Arano even saw 10.2 successful big league innings in 2017, whiffing 13 and allowing on 4 free passes with a 1.69 ERA. I talked to a talent evaluator about why they like Arano for dynasty leagues, citing the “precarious Phillies closer situation” and “high digit heat” as attractive parts of Arano’s profile. If Arano can break camp with the Phillies this spring, he has the talent to work his way into high leverage opportunities in short order.

Jason Martin, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Martin moves into the Pittsburgh system in the last few days as one of four players shipped from Houston to Pittsburgh in the Gerrit Cole deal. Martin was a potential Rule 5 pick when he was left unprotected by Houston, and seems that his time ending in Houston was inevitable. Given the Astros deep farm system, the Pirates gladly pounced on the opportunity to acquire the talented Martin.  He has solid tools across the board, as he swatted 18 HR and swiped 16 bases across 125 games at the A+ and AA levels. Standing at 5’11”, Martin is a bit of a tweener in his ultimate outfield home due to his arm and offensive production, but he can contribute to the big league picture as soon as 2018 in a 4th OF role.

Jordy Barley, SS, San Diego Padres

There are multiple candidates for the San Diego sleeper highlight, but Barley stands out as a talented teenage shortstop. One of Barley’s best tools is his speed, but he has a solid hit tool already and plays the game with high energy. He has a quiet setup in the box and a small double toe tap, but uncorks an explosive, full body swing. While fellow San Diego SS Gabriel Arias may be grabbing attention from his loud play in Australia, Barley is yet another name to circle in the San Diego system flush with prospects.

Sam Wolff, RHP, San Francisco Giants

Wolff has yet to throw a pitch in the Giants system, as he was involved in a trade package in December from the Texas Rangers organization for LHP Matt Moore. Wolff sports a fastball that can touch 100 out of the bullpen, where he became a full time reliever in 2017. The 26 year old should work his way into the San Francisco bullpen picture at some point in the near future, and his control will need to set him apart from a handful of other right-handed flamethrowers in the high minors in their system.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

According to pictures that Seijas posted on Twitter a couple of days ago standing next to the 5’11” Yadier Molina and the 5’9” Kolten Wong, Seijas definitely appears to be taller than his listed 5’8”, perhaps closer to Molina’s height than Wong’s. Given this conservative height listing to date, fewer people are as high on this interesting righty as they should be considering his big stuff from the mound. At 19 years old and billed as undersized to this point, Seijas is still getting every opportunity to be a starting pitcher for the Cardinals and has impressed with his body of work so far. His long arms and athletic presence on the mound are only the beginning of his pitching profile, as he has a very promising future in a system that has had high levels of developmental success with pitchers.

Taylor Gushue, C, Washington Nationals

Gushe is a switch-hitting catcher who spent a majority of this past season at High A, while earning an end of year promotion to AA. Gushue also was a member of the 2017 Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, playing behind Oakland’s Sean Murphy and Chicago Cubs’ Ian Rice. Gushue mashed 18 HR’s playing for Potomac in the Carolina League, where he was tied for second in the league in that category. Gushue also showed patience at the plate, putting together 41 BB in 91 G. The solidly-built Gushue is worth a look in deeper two catcher formats, as the 24-year-old catcher has enough to be an offensive-first backup as a floor.

Make sure to check out the AL Deep Dynasty Sleeper Edition here.

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

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